Mana Pool Snippets - Keystone - Part 2
Andrea Livingston. Katie could not believe what happened to her, and wished it was not her. It made Katie sick to think how Andrea survived, alone, without any help. How long had she been out there? What about her parents?
Strangest, Katie heard nothing from the Livingstons.
As Andrea slept, Katie stroked the little terran’s head on her lap. She ignored the dirt on her pants and hands. That excess could be that she slept on the ground, after or during the recent rain storm.
It has to be days, Katie thought.
We are unsure of that, Arana telepathically thought. The red-tailed hawk totem sat on the couch’s back, looking down at Andrea.
Scott and Keeji came back after Katie asked for two glasses of water for Andrea. Both were placed on the table after Jaruka gathered his stuff minutes ago. “Anything?”
Katie shook her head. “This just breaks my heart.” Scott and Katie were victims of so-called “terran abuse” since Area 51. She seen girls much like Andrea’s age at the base, treated like animals. “I never expected someone like her to transform this soon.” She tried not to remember those awful images before the attack.
“I tried calling Beth and Morgan,” Scott started. “I tried three times but they never answered.”
“Did you leave a message?”
Scott shook his head and said, “Can’t for some reason. Every time I hear the beep the phone cuts. I think they see the winery number and block it somehow.” He crouched down to eye level with Andrea.
The extent of her body bared more up close. Katie noticed small to big scraps on Andrea’s arms, probably from branches and bushes. Her armor pattern mildly protruded under her skin, smoother than Scott’s and Katie’s sharper kind. Andrea’s tail had more scars, which fits since new terrans tend to injure their tails a lot. Also it seemed that Andrea ripped her own pants just to accommodate her tail.
Keeji was at Andrea’s feet, free from the trashed sandals but had serious injuries on the sole, telling Katie she must’ve been crying as she walked. It would take weeks just to heal properly.
“Will she wake up soon? I wonder where her totem is,” Keeji asked them.
“I hope so too,” Katie assured the husky totem.
Keeji looked, and then laughed a little. “Wow, you really skipped that time, Scott. She must’ve been pushing all her mana into that spell.”
“Not now, Keeji,” he said.
Between Keeji and Arana, they are quite different. Katie’s totem is the intellectual type. Ever since Katie met her, she was in debt to her wisdom, besides being her own sub-conscious. On top of the mysterious spellbook she got when she transformed, both have been pouring all over the pages, studying terran magic down to the last syllable. It fits with Katie’s curiosity. In the past, Katie had a hobby for the supernatural, like witches and magic and such. Even played around with New Age rituals and spells in private. When she realized she had true magical powers, all her dreams and fantasies became real as a roller coaster ride.
Keeji the brown/white husky is Scott’s totem, but he is more like the family doofus than a teacher. He cares more about chasing animals and sleeping around the property than aid Scott. Katie helps Scott with the magic, but explaining things first, just until Scott’s damaged mana heart is healed and capable of producing mana again.
Finally, Andrea stirred and moaned. Katie sighed in relief. “Come on, wake up,” Katie said.
Andrea opened her eyes and looked up. Even though the terran transformation made little changes to Katie’s head—elf ears holding back her short brown hair—it was a friendly and familiar face.
“Welcome back,” Katie said smiling.
Suddenly Andrea wrapped her arms around Katie and cried on her shoulder, catching Katie off guard and causing her to start crying.
In between sobs, Andrea said, “Thank you, thank you” over and over.
It went on for minutes until Andrea calmed down. The couch and couple looked like they survived a dust storm, but they were used to working in dirt.
Andrea drank the two glasses, plus three more and two pieces of fruit to sooth her unnourished body.
“Feeling better?” Katie asked sitting beside Andrea.
“Yes, very much,” Andrea said. “I used to hate bananas.”
“That caught my attention. You are a picky eater.” Katie pushed back dirt-coated strands of hair from Andrea’s face. “You got to tell us what happened, sweetie.”
Andrea covered her face. “It’s horrible, Katie. My life has been bad since last week.”
“Last week?” Scott exclaimed. “Hang on. I may be wrong but you’ve been out there for a whole week?”
“I try to count the days,” Andrea answered, “but… I just hate it. I hate it! I want to go home!”
Katie shuttered from the outburst. The first time Andrea ever screamed.
“Andrea, just take deep breaths,” Katie instructed her, and Andrea followed. Even Keeji and Arana pitched in to make her smile, but it was no use. “Now, I need you to think, but don’t scream anymore. Promise?”
Andrea sniffed and agreed.
“Tell us what happened.”
It did help when Andrea leaned on Katie. “I-I just turned thirteen last week.”
“That explains it,” Arana said. “Human children transform on their thirteenth birthday.” This was a confirmation early in the Wave that thirteen year olds were transforming. Although, when Scott and Katie transformed it was a violent experience. Andrea described it that she was “in peace,” that her whole body did not convulse normally, but floated as the transformation commenced. But all and all, it was terrifying to Andrea, especially the magic.
“I have a totem now,” Andrea said. “But she’s not ready to meet you guys. She’s afraid.”
“We can understand,” Scott said. “Keeji is sometimes a scardy cat and never leaves me for days. But anyway, what about your parents? I tried calling them but I could not get a hold of them.”
Andrea nodded. “Since the crystals fell, they treat everything like hell. They called my terran friends and their terran friends demons, including me. I even heard them call your parents traitors.”
Katie is no stranger to the rash comments. She was called a demon, but not in her face by her late girl friend. She died helping the couple.
“What!? Your parents, Beth and Morgan, said that?” Katie said in shock.
Andrea nodded with a quivering mouth. “Then…” she started, sobbing. “Then they kicked me out.” The crying started again due to the harsh memories. “I came… here because… I know that, your family accepts… you two,” she gasped.
“Hey, hey, don’t cry now. You’re with us now,” Katie said, trying not to cry too. “We too had our share of problems. Listen. How about you come upstairs and get cleaned up. How does that sound?”
Andrea did several more sobs until she nodded and said, “I want that.” Both girls went up stairs. Arana stayed behind and turned to Scott after watching them.
“I realized something,” Arana started. “I’ve been watching the news. Helps with the magic breaks. I’ve noticed that abandoned terran children are up this week. This is turning into an ugly trend, Scott.”
“Very ugly, she’s reminding me of myself,” Scott added. The dirt on the couch started bugging him. “Be right back,” he said and walked to the kitchen for anything to clean up the mess.
Reminded about lonely children raked his heart concerning he was family-less for two whole years. Two years ago he successfully recovered from a mental hospital with Katie’s help and unofficially adopted by the family. His love for Katie was strong in high school and it was stronger afterwards as he made up almost everything he missed, but those memories of loneliness are never forgotten.
This cannot be this way. Somehow, the Livingstons have to take Andrea back.
As he got the hand vaccum, some washcloths and fabric freshener, but despite the drama unfolding, he forget where Jaruka hid. Scott opened the pantry door.
Jaruka sat on a step stool as he had the briefcase open on his lap, still broadcasting the morning’s Howler Cycle race. He looked up at Scott, a fresh bruise over his right eye. “This is not like I’m a wanted fugitive or those movies about tiny fragile aliens, Scott,” he said, “ It’s been over a month, I have the right to be out in the open.”
“Well this is a family friend we’re talking about, and what you did was pretty shocking. You’re lucky she didn’t ask about you, but you deserved that black eye,” Scott said.
Jaruka sniffed, yet the bruise caused no pain. It nearly disappeared on its own from Jaruka’s fast healing ability.
“Come help me with this, can’t leave you alone anyway,” Scott told him, but Jaruka just brooded as Scott started cleaning; the totems giving the support they could.
“So who is she?” Jaruka asked.
Scott set all the pillows on the floor and yelled as he vacuumed. “It’s Andrea Livingston. I’ve known her for like two years, but Katie and the rest know the Livingstones for a long time. Before the Wave she comes by on her own every other day just to be with us. She looks up to Katie like a sister because she an only child.”
Arana coughed and yelled, “Parents own an accounting firm in the city and they handle the winery’s taxes. On the plus they are devote Temecula wine supporters and are one of several sponsors for the parties.”
“I see,” Jaruka said. “So why is she here looking like she had a mud fight with grimlods?”
“What are grimlods?” Keeji asked.
“You will feel sick if you knew.”
“Okay let’s not talk about space now,” Scott yelled. “Besides the race, did you hear what she said?”
“No, sir, I was too busy with the race. I’m not in the right mind to give a damn about human issues.”
“Can you please not be snippy for once today?” Scott asked with a strong tone.
Jaruka was silent.
“Alright. So, back to Andrea. She said that ever since she transformed last week on her thirteenth birthday…” Jaruka took a breath but Scott beat him. “…I know about the thirteenth birthday thing. But ever since, her parents kicked her out and forced to survive in the wild.”
“Ouch,” Jaruka said. “Well she handled herself well.”
“Girls her age are not allowed to be outside, not with those idiots running around. I’m shocked she stayed hidden for so long.”
“But that’s not normal for humans?”
“I see.” The alien looked up from the sound of running water in the ceiling. “What a shame.”
“What?” Scott asked.
“What?” Jaruka repeated.
As Scott got most of the dirt off he started scrubbing. At least the couch was brown upholstery from the beginning or Brenda Walsh would have a fit.
“Also they haven’t called us. At all. Plus I tried calling them and that failed.”
“So… you four are at a loss?” Jaruka asked. Scott agreed. “I assume Robert knows?”
“Haven’t told him yet.”
“Eh, don’t bother. But really, what are you gonna do about it?”
“I told you, we don’t know.”
“I’ll tell you what I would do,” Jaruka started. “We get her to not crying like a breached dam, cinch our belts and march over to her home.”
Scott shot up. “That’s just crazy.”
“No, that’s settling matters face to face. In space, sometimes you can’t do things in a nice way.”
“This is not space.”
“But Terra Firma occupies space, so it works,” Jaruka added.
Scott shook his head to not even question that logic. Scott was against any form of meeting the Livingstons in the open. For one thing, humans are not used to terrans, still. Every day he hears of abuse on the streets, and the same time, terrans retaliating with untold amounts of magic. They never left the winery, except visiting Jaruka’s campsite to make sure he did not do anything stupid, like upsetting the government in an un-regular way.
“So you want us to risk our lives?” Scott asked.
“Yeah,” Arana started. “Ever since you’ve been unsupportive, Jaruka. Now you want to take serious matters?”
Several darted eyes the alien made. “It’s not my problem, it’s yours. I’m here as Denverbay’s collateral,” Jaruka said. “Also I’d be in trouble if my watchers are hurt.”
“Nevermind,” Scott said and continued cleaning.
Then again, the idea got stuck in his head. He knew the Livingstons are sensitive, religious and hard to change their minds. It’s hard for them to try any other Walsh wine besides Cliffhanger. How would Brenda and Jonathan take the news? Not likely, Scott thought. They would do what Jaruka suggested, and probably it will end badly. And if nothing helps, how could they house Andrea? Jacob the youngest is too much of a handful as it is.
After cleaning the best he could, Scott went upstairs. He knocked on Katie’s bedroom door as he heard her and Andrea’s voices.
“Just a sec,” Katie said. She came out and closed the door behind her.
“She’s feeling much better now,” Katie started. “But she talked more. Did you know she did not go to school the whole time?”
Katie shook her head. “She says she’s too embarrassed to show herself. You remember that Dallas kid in high school? He never showed up and the parents were arrested for abuse because they didn’t officially put him in home school?”
“Yeah, kind of,” Scott said.
“Maybe, just maybe, the police heard of this. Can you call Deryl about it? See if he could find something?”
“I can try. But how is Andrea really?”
“Well we got hear cleaned up and found some old clothes to fit her. I fixed the pants for her tail. Her old clothes are in a trash bag so to be washed. It took me a while to calm her down and tell her things will be all right still. She even told me that blast on you was her first spell.”
Scott stared at Katie. Even as a terran they have free reign of their magic, in limited quantities. But surviving in the wild without magic? That could be a feet on its own.
“I casted a few spells myself to really make her perk up,” Katie said.
“Anything big?” Scott asked and she shook her head.
“Just a towel levitation and water bending like Korra, that’s all. Made her smile a little.”
“Good, anything to make her smile will help,” Scott said. “I cam up to tell you what Jaruka suggested.”
Katie’s eyelids lowered a bit. “Jaruka. Made a suggestion?”
“I know. He said that we all go to the house and talk to Beth and Morgan, face to face. Crazy right?”
“Crazy,” Katie said, thinking on it for a second, “But it might work.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
And if that wasn’t a changer, Katie and Andrea were talking about it too. Go to the house, make the parents explain themselves, and make the Livingstons a family again before things turn even worse. Katie was for it, all the way. She needed answers and forgiveness from the old family friends. And Scott was again stuck with Katie’s decisions.
He checked on Andrea before talking to Jaruka again. She was free of the dirt and mud, her hair back to her usual style say for the elf ears making an emphasis. No surprise she was wearing Katie’s old long sleeve red blouse and jeans too big that they had to be rolled up. He caught some life in Andrea’s eyes, some. The trauma for the past week still lingered. Andrea’s tail was covered in a bandage to help heal the cuts. Good idea, a lot of terrans started wearing “tail socks” for a while, even Katie did it a couple times.
Then again, the decision was troubling Andrea. One side, she was afraid of what would happen if things don’t work; the other, she really wants to be with Beth again. It had to be settled or else it would nag Andrea forever.
There was one problem to the idea.
“Uh, it’s like you forgot to what you were screaming at Mom and Dad in the first place,” Robert Walsh said in the living room. “I mean… come on. Really? You want to go there?”
“Exactly,” Katie said. “This is for Andrea you know.”
“Well you can’t take my Jeep,” Robert noted, “and I can’t let you. Mom and Dad are not home.”
“Which is why they won’t know. We will be out of there before whatever Mom and Dad had planned.”
Scott watched the sibling scuff, close but far from it. It compelled to agree a few times. Andrea was kept upstairs just to not hear them.
“I have magic. I can protect myself,” Katie reminded Robert.
“That’s not the case, you can’t go and certainly not endangering Andrea.”
“Scott,” Katie said, “I have to do this. Scott also. Look, the Livingstons support us; they’ve been in the family for as long as I can remember. We all know we can’t keep Andrea here, Mom can’t handle it.”
“Oh, she can.”
“But have you seen her lately? Every time she sees me I get that look in her eye saying she will be a terran soon. She keeps checking herself for a tattoo every day. Andrea is too much stress. Besides, this is child abuse written on billboard. We all know we had our experience in that.”
Robert looked down but could not help but beam a glance at Scott. Scott nodded, a little.
“Andrea needs us, and Scott and me are doing this. Now, let us have the Jeep,” Katie said before folding her arms.
The final fact that made Robert give up the keys was that Jaruka was coming, for protection. The alien glaring at him—piercing into Robert’s soul kind of brooding—really did it. Also, Jaruka did not like the fact that he had to wear his DNA mask, allowing him to look seamlessly like a human from the Caribbean islands.
Jaruka went in first; sitting in the back, quiet, with both eyes looking out the window. Not even looking at Andrea and the terrans. His clothes were changed from the mask’s technology: simple black t-shirt, blue jeans, and sandals. His skindreads were now hair-like dreads, bound behind him with a red bandana. His Halcunac digitigrade legs became long human plantigrade legs. Even with the mask changing his natural green skin to a light brown and added a hint of afternoon shadow on his sharp jawline, he still acted as usual.
Andrea looked at him and was about to ask, but Scott and Katie quickly told her he’s a winemaker transplant from Napa. Smooth.
The terrans did the same thing to hid who they were. Hats, sunglasses, and jackets. They totems entered their hosts as to not crowd the Jeep. Scott and Katie never felt so suspicious, ever. The fear of leaving the estate kicked in, but why they were doing it had more power.
“Ready?” Scott said to the group.
The girls nodded. Jaruka did nothing.
Scott took a breath, turned the key and drove off. He spotted Robert at the warehouse, watching them leave, and not waving goodbye.
Cabin fever is hard to deal with. Scott did not feel that way with fear looming beyond the driveway. The first few weeks dealing with Jaruka, government vehicles and vans were stationed at the gate, spying on them. Eventually the new president ordered the commander in charge to cease all operations in case tensions between the earth and Jaruka went too far. It hurt the winery too, financially. The other side of why the parents never liked Jaruka coming at all.
After the Area 51 attack, zombie bodies were all over the valley. On the side of the road, the sidewalks, inside buildings, and in one case on the estate itself, they suddenly died from a massive brain hemorrhage that made the brain to rupture out the skull. All the bodies were picked up, but those images still lingered for Scott, and trying to forget was hard.
The purple crystals—the larger ones impossible to remove—were still imbedded in the ground like natural monuments. The smaller ones were collected, either as souvenirs or scientific study. Who knows, at least they are not out puncturing tires.
As for the city of Temecula, the damage was still prevalent on the buildings from the Wave. Some buildings were repaired, while some still waited to be patched. Driving down the main road, Katie spotted a few terrans in the open, living out their lives normally. Just the younger types, including their totems. One terran girl had a snow owl totem on her shoulder as she filled her car’s gas tank up. Another ran as her snow leopard coached her to keep her pace steady.
Any other totem, Scott thought, must be in hiding. If anybody was foolish to attack the runner and car filler, they would get more than a kick and a punch.
Which is what Scott hoped it would never come to at the Livingstons.
What Do We Know - Titan Spires
Another part down, just an establishment of Andrea and what her family did to her. Truly, truly sad. But can it all pan out next week?
As always, comments are appreciated.
Mana Pool and all characters and events belong to L.J. McLean